Day 9 - Muddy Water












MUDDY WATER


I'm not much of a camper, but Carny convinced me to go, and so I found myself on the last night of our trip around a fire telling ghost stories. I told my best one, about the Teeny Tiny Woman who lives in the Teeny Tiny House, which Carny thought was pretty good. Then he said he had one for me, he called "Muddy Water." Carny stirred the fire, took a sip from his flask, and started talking in that deep sonorous voice of his:

You wake up, but don't immediately open your eyes.   Your head is pounding.Sometimes when your head hurts you can feel each pulse of your heart, thumping in your skull. This isn't like that. There are no thumps. There is only pain, like your skull is too tight for your brain.

What happened last night? You can't seem to remember anything. You remember-or think you remember-being invited to a party. There was music, wasn't there? And dancing, and food, and so much wine...and women.

You'd never seen so many beautiful women. So what happened after that? It seems like you could remember, you should remember, but you can't quite.

You open your eyes slowly-and cautiously-worried how much light is out there to pierce your eyes, and slowly adjust to the semi-gloom. There appears to be a ceiling above you, and by the distance that would place you on the floor. You move your eyes around slowly without actually moving your head; not quite sure how much physical movement will hurt. There's a bookcase on one wall, and a painting on another, right above a couch. It would seem you're in some sort of study.

You pull your hands up to wipe the sleep out of your eyes. Your fingers feel grimy and caked. Your hands eventually come into focus.

They seem paler than you remember, with brown crusty splotches everywhere. Is that dirt?

No, it's not gritty. The texture is smooth, more like dried cough syrup.

Suddenly it hits you what's on your hands, and you sit upright with a bolt.  Argh! You were right about the movement. Your head starts swimming and your vision momentarily films over. Feels like you've been kicked in the head by a giraffe.

You sit there for a minute, waiting to the nausea to die down. In the meantime, you glance down at your hands. It's definitely dried blood.What's worse: it's all over you. Your shirt is soaked and your pants are covered in it too.

You gingerly start feeling around your body, looking for where you started bleeding. You're not panicking yet, but you can see that coming. There's more blood on your face, but amazingly, none of it seems to be yours. You even comb through your scalp. Have to check a mirror to be sure, but it looks like you're okay.

Except for the blinding headache, which seems to be getting just a tad better.  Slowly-very slowly-you grab on to an overstuffed chair next to you and pull yourself up. There's a tray next to the chair with three empty wine bottles.Did you drink all that? Surely not.

You never have more than a glass. What would make you drink all that? It would explain your headache, though, and your sudden intense desire to intake some water, and to trade it out, if you follow me.

You seem okay to walk, so you move to the door and open it a crack. Is this the house where the party was? Can't seem to get that to click in your head.You don't see or hear anything as you peek out the door. Cautiously you pad down the hallway, looking for signs of life, but sort of wary of finding them at the same time.

You walk into a room, a dining room, it looks like. Places are set all around the table. The dirty dishes are still there. That is at odds with the subtle elegance of the rest of the room. Nothing more to be learned here.

The next room appears to be the music room. A beautiful grand piano, surrounded by several couches and chairs. There are half-full wine glasses everywhere, but no one here. Your answers lie elsewhere. 

Of course,
 Carny says, with a deep chuckle, if you'd looked at the other side of the piano...

I felt a knot form in the pit of my stomach. A twig snapped somewhere in the surrounding woods and I jumped like a little girl and let out a yelp. 

You all right?
 Carny asks wryly. Maybe I should stop the story and sing you a lullaby instead. I'm okay, I said huskily. Pray continue. Carny takes a long swallow of whatever he had in his flask, winks at me, and starts in again.

The next room you come to it's almost impossible to make out any detail. The drapes are heavy and drawn completely over the windows. You do see the outline of a lamp on one side of the room, and walk over to turn it on. Half way there you stumble, tripping over something heavy and bulky. You get to  the light and turn it on and turn around to see what it was.

Or should I say who it was. A man, about your age, by the look of him. He's lying on the ground-much like you were when you woke. He's covered in blood-much like you are. The only difference is that his throat is ripped out.


In a daze you glance around the room. Other shapes jump out at you. Tables.  Chaises. Bodies. They are everywhere. A man and a woman draped together on a couch, throats slashed. A beautiful girl on the lounge, seemingly at peace, except she's never moving again, and there's a hole in her neck.

Everywhere you look are people, so still and lifelike, they look posed, like mannequins. They enormity of this hits you, combined with your still formidable headache, and you know you will shortly be violently sick. You spy a small lavatory off to the side and rush in-leaving the door wide open to the room and carnage. You barely make it to the toilet before losing all the wine. It gushes out of your mouth dark red, reminding you of blood, and that makes you even sicker.


When you've finally given all you have to give, you stumble to the sink, turning on both taps. You splash water on your face and while you're at it, scrub at the some of the dried blood. Your stomach feels a little better, as does  your head. You grab a towel and pat your face dry. Then you stand up right and look at the mirror facing that outer room. Then you see it.


Carny stops talking and looks at me expectedly. I'm hanging on his every word, and I can't believe he stopped here! 

See what? I cried, anxious for him to finish the story, even if I was creeped out, way out in the woods. Carny, you can't just stop right before the end of a story! What did I see?

Carny smiles slyly, and pokes at a log in the fire with his foot. What did I tell you this story was called? He said quietly. 

I thought back for a second. Muddy Water, I replied. 

Have you ever been to a lake or stream that was very muddy?
 Carny asked me. 

Yeah, I guess, I said. 

When you look in those Muddy Waters, what do you see?
 I looked at him in confusion. What was he talking about?

You don't see anything, I finally ventured. There's no reflection.

The penny dropped and I stared at him, stunned. Carny just laughed in that deep bass voice of his and took another sip of his flask.


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